Penn State, Pitt say goodbye Today's game last in rivalry until '97


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State's transitional season offers another farewell tour today at Beaver Stadium when the Nittany Lions meet Pitt for the 92nd time in a hotly contested intrastate rivalry.

With Penn State moving to the Big Ten next season, today's 4 p.m. matchup on ESPN will be the last in the Pitt series until 1997.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno said he had mixed feelings about a rivalry in which the Lions have gone 6-3-1 in the past 10 games.

"I wish we had not had to do it, in some ways," Paterno said of the decision to close the series. "In other ways, I think it was good. I think it's good both schools put it aside for a couple of years and then get on with it again."

Both teams have lost four of their past five games, a circumstance that has sent Penn State (6-4) plummeting from a season-high of seventh in the Associated Press poll to 23rd. This is the last Beaver Stadium appearance for 20 Penn State seniors, and the Lions' last game until the Blockbuster Bowl on Jan. 1.

Pitt, meanwhile, is 3-7 and speculation has grown about the status of coach Paul Hackett, who is 13-19-1 in three seasons with the Panthers.

Putting aside the prospect of taking a 6-5 record into the bowl game, Paterno said the Pitt rivalry is enough motivation for the Lions.

"Pitt's Pitt. It's a big game for us," Paterno said. "A lot of our kids are from the western part of the state. A lot of kids on their team, we tried to recruit.

"Pitt has a very young team and they've beaten themselves in a couple of games. It's not what they have done, it's what they can do."

Paterno will get one last look at Pitt quarterback Alex Van Pelt, who threw for 324 yards and five interceptions in a 32-20 loss to Penn State a year ago. With 2,695 yards this season, Van Pelt is one of six college quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 10,000 yards in a career. He passed former Pitt great Dan Marino as the school's all-time passing yardage and total offense leader this year.

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